SEATTLE – Israel is dizzy. The writing is already on the wall as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has appointed an extremist, David Friedman, as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. He intends to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and supports the expansion of illegal colonies that have already sliced up the envisaged Palestinian state into South Africa-like Bantustans.
Thus, it must be odd to suggest that a Trump presidency could be the coup de grace that Palestinians need to liberate themselves from the decades-old weight of an overbearing, arrogant and futile American foreign policy.
Unmistakably, a Trump presidency is terrible for Palestinians in the short term. The man does not even attempt to show an iota of balance as he approaches the Mideast’s most protracted and delicate conflict. Shortly after the United States abstained from voting on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s illegal settlements on Dec. 23, Trump tweeted, “As to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th.”
Israeli leaders are eying the date, too.Naftali Bennett, head of the extremist Jewish Home Party and minister of education, told journalists in November after Trump’s victory that, “We have a chance to reset the structure across the Middle East. We have to seize that opportunity and act on it” and “The era of the Palestinian state is over.”
On Dec. 28, U.S. Secretary John Kerry stated that the current government “is the most right-wing in Israeli history” — a trend that will not change any time soon, since it is an accurate reflection of the political and societal mood in the country. Bennett responded to Kerry’s speech by saying, “Kerry quoted me three times, anonymously, in his speech in order to demonstrate that we oppose a Palestinian state,” he said, “so let me state it explicitly: Yes. If it depends on me, we will not establish another terror state in the heart of our country.” As for Kerry’s reiteration that Jerusalem should be a capital for both Israel and Palestine, Bennett responded: “Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years. That is in the Bible, open it and read.”
The stranglehold of religious zealotry on Israeli politics is irreversible for the foreseeable future. While, in the past, secular Jewish politicians used religious notions to appeal to religious Jews in exchange for their votes and to populate illegal settlements, it is the religious groups that now set the tone of mainstream Israeli politics.
So how could this benefit Palestinians in any way? Simply put: clarity. Since mid-level U.S. officials agreed to meet with a Palestine Liberation Organization delegation in Tunisia in the late 1980s, the U.S. has chosen a most bewildering path of peace-making. Soon after the U.S. hesitantly “engaged” the PLO, Washington was left alone to define what “peace” between Israel and its Palestinian and Arab neighbors entailed.
The U.S. set the parameters of the “peace process,” corralled Arabs on many occasions to have them rubber-stamp whatever peace “vision” it found suitable, and divided the Arabs into “moderates” and “radicals” camps, solely based on how they perceived U.S. dictates of “peace” in the region.
Without any mandate, the U.S. designated itself as an “honest peace broker,” yet has done everything wrong to jeopardize the accomplishment of the very parameters that it set to achieve the supposed peace. While it went as far as describing Israel’s illegal settlement construction as an “obstacle to peace,” the U.S. funded the settlements and the occupation army entrusted with protecting them. It called for “confidence-building measures” while, at the same time, bankrolling the Israeli military and justifying Israel’s wars in Gaza and its excessive violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
In other words, for decades, the U.S. has done precisely the exact opposite of what it publicly preached. The U.S. political schizophrenia is on full display at the moment. A few weeks before the U.S. abstained on the U.N. resolution demanding that Israel halt its illegal settlements in the West Bank, President Barack Obama handed Israel “the largest military aid deal in history.”
The U.S.’ blind support of Israel throughout the years has increased the latter’s expectations to the point that it now anticipates U.S. support to continue, even when Israel is ruled by extremists who are further destabilizing an already fragile and unstable region.
According to Israeli logic, such expectations are quite rational. The U.S. has served as an enabler to Israel’s political and military belligerence, while pacifying the Palestinians and the Arabs with empty promises, threats and handouts.
The “moderate Palestinians,” the likes of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, were duly pacified, indeed, for they won the trappings of power coupled with U.S. political validation, while allowing Israel to conquer whatever remained of Palestine.
But that era is, indeed, over. While the U.S. will continue to enable Israel’s intransigence, a Trump presidency is likely to witness a complete departure from the Washingtonian doublespeak.
Bad will no longer be good, wrong is not right, and warmongering is not peacemaking. In fact, Trump is set to expose American foreign policy for what it truly is, and has been for decades. His presidency is likely to give all parties a stark choice regarding where they stand on peace, justice and human rights.
The Palestinians, too, will have to make a choice, face the decades-long reality with a united front, or side with those who intend to “reset” the future of the Middle East based on a dark interpretation of biblical prophecies.
Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years.
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